Tuesday, 27 January 2015

The Don't Beat Yourself Up Guide to Childcare

Sob maternity leave is over and you have to go back to work (read all about that here). And chances are you are going to have to sort out some sort of childcare. And there is nothing more heartbreaking than having to hand your precious child over to somebody else. But let me reassure you. I have been a secondary school teacher for well over a decade and when you are at work? Or when you are not around? I am their Mum. I treat them like one of my own. Seriously (OK I don't give them the tablet and let them watch Peppa whilst eating malted milks but you know what I mean).

Most of the time people go into the profession of looking after children as they love them. Sure you hear the odd story on the news about x, y and z happening but on the whole? We are a good bunch who actually enjoy the company of your child. On the two days I work I make it my job to make your child happy feel as happy and safe as possible. I keep an eye on them. Notice when they are sad and praise them when they are being super ace. 

Please note. I was brought this mug. I did not buy it myself.

Sure it is different with a small baby or a toddler but be reassured we do care. And if you ever get a remote sniff we don't care? Then it is in your right to kick up an almighty fuss and sort it out asap. So this is not so much a 'Don't Beat Yourself Up Guide'. As I think most of us don't overly love the idea of us not looking after our own child. We all feel that guilt in the pit of our stomach and we all think about the 'what ifs?'. So we are never going to cure that ruddy guilt.

This is more the 'Make Sure You Are Well Informed Guide to Childcare So You Don't Feel Too Guilty or Sad' (catchy eh?). I have sourced some of the best links for you to look into whether you are considering a child minder for your 6 month old, want a nursery for your two year old or are looking into pre-schools for the first time.

Child Minders
I have never used a child minder but not because of some massive aversion to them. When I worked full time my daughter was looked after grandparents half of the time and the rest I wanted her in a nursery setting to prepare her for pre-school. I know people who do have child minders and they really love the fact their little one has one on one time with someone they feel comfortable with in a small setting.

I would say if you are looking for a child minder maybe ask around your friends if they can recommend somebody. Your mates will be honest and tell you if somebody sucks. And then book in a visit. Before you do, check out The Ofsted Website and read their Ofsted report. Be realistic. 'Outstanding' is now an incredibly hard target for people to reach. I would read the report with an open mind and then visit them. Before you go have a list of all the questions you have. And you know what? There is NO question too stupid. Ask to look at the meal plans, what they do on a day to day basis and ensure that you know what will happen during school holidays. How many pairs of spare pants do you need to pack? Cover ALL bases. And if you want to see three or four child minders before you find the right one? That's OK.

First day of pre-school SOB

Nursery
Do not leave looking into nurseries a month before you go back to work. Start to think about this early. I didn't and then had to scramble around looking like a maniac weeping on the doors of various nurseries. Most nurseries have a settling in process and you want to make sure that you are around for this and not back at work stressing. If possible? Even maybe start nursery a bit earlier if funds allow it to get everyone in a routine. Don't feel guilty about this! Use the time to get mentally prepared for your return to work. Or to get your roots done. 

Again visit The Ofsted Report. And again visit the setting. Good nurseries should operate an open door policy. Whilst the venue itself will be locked (obvs) you should be able to pop in and visit whenever you like. They know that you are going to be sad. They know that you are probably going to weep. So don't worry if you do. And those first few weeks? Call whenever you want. They won't get cross. Promise. Things to look out for are again the meal plans and educational activities. I think a really good thing to notice is the wall displays. Are they up to date? Are they showing that the children are learning a range of skills?

Ask about opening times. Ensure you know what happens when you drop them off and pick them up. Where will their coats be left? What do I need to bring with them? If you child is allergic to one type of baby wipe maybe bring in a pack of your own you like. Ensure any medication is labelled and they know what to do. And ALWAYS pack a few spare changes of clothes. They will be filthy when they leave nursery. You need to embrace this and don't go expecting you can go straight to a fancy party after you pick them up. Fact. It will be a baby wipe bath and a quick change in the back of a car.

Also did you know some two year olds and all three year olds are entitled to 15 free hours a week? Look at this website here to see if you are eligible and also make sure you take full advantage of your child care vouchers. Ask at your work place about these and your other halves. If you're intending to have another child quite soon? Make sure you talk to the child care vouchers provider about this as it could effect your maternity pay. 

Kids love pre-school as they get to paint and not worry about getting it on the couch!

Pre-School
You can keep your child in nursery and use their free school hours as part of their full week there. This means they will still be learning pre-school things but just in a nursery setting. This can be a bit more flexible and you could put them in over a few days rather than them going in each day.

My daughter is in a traditional pre-school. These are generally ran in a school setting with a uniform (sob). Sessions are for three hours each. In the morning or the afternoon. When you are applying think carefully about what session you would like them to go in. Think about if you have another child when do they nap? What will work best for you? My girl is in the morning session and my son naps then so I get the morning to myself (THE DREAM) and then we are free for fun in the afternoon. 

Pre-school was a bit of a shock to the system. It is like school. There are set times. There is homework. There are trips. They do not run in holiday time and this may be something to consider if you work full time. I am a teacher so this is not a problem but it may be an issue if you are not around during these times. Also bear in mind going to the pre-school? Does not mean you gain entry to the actual school. So you could get a place at kick ass Outstanding pre-school out of your catchment area? But you may still stand no chance of getting into the school. Which is irritating and a pain in the bum.

There is the mug again! Now with some cakes - notice the irony of what I was marking

Grandparents
Ofsted do not monitor Grandparents. There are no rules and regulations for Grandparents. If you are entrusting your little ones to your parents or your in laws? Then you need to be really clear from the start what you expect. I micro manage massively. So at the beginning clothes would be left out that I wanted them to wear. Meals would be in the fridge and snacks in bowls waiting. Times have changed dramatically and what was ace in the 70s and 80s? Is not so much now. I am super lucky that my parents know I am a control freak so they had no problem with me leaving lists and being a bit bossy.

In laws? Are not so easy. Try and make sure you and your partner are on the same page and that they will man up and talk to them if needs be. However? I have found over time that you do need to relax a bit. The odd chocolate biscuit here and a trip to McDonald's is not going to kill your child. My parents think being able to look after their grandchildren is such a massive privilege. They do it with love, it saves me a shed load of cash and whilst is drives me mad when they spoil them. Hey? That's what grandparents are for eh?

God love em

Overall remember that your child is the most precious gift in the world (vomits in own mouth) and that you need to make sure you feel comfortable with whoever you leave them with. If not putting them with grandparents is going to annoy people? Then tough. This is down to you and your little ones. Turn of Real Housewives off and do a bit of research in the evening and whatever you do. DO NOT LEAVE IT TILL THE LAST FORTNIGHT and then end up in the most expensive nursery in the world. You will be cross with yourself and a lot poorer. Promise.

1 comment:

  1. Very informative post! I know I found nursery places when I was pregnant, knowing I would be going back to work at 6 months. Even that far ahead, one of the nurseries I wanted wasn't able to give me the hours we needed.
    As you say, grandparents are ace. My parents have always been good at following the rules and have got the balance between being grandparents and having to take the parental role and using discipline when necessary. Sadly for my sis, her MIL is undermining all of this, saying 'we're here grandparents, we're allowed to spoil her'. Not if you have responsibility for her one day a week, you're not!

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